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MBA Careers

The MBA degree provides candidates with the tools, skills, networks and opportunities to advance their current career or switch their career path in a new direction. For those looking to use the degree to expand their career opportunities, understanding which business school programs provide the greatest access to which careers is critical. 

You can examine more detailed information on careers in investment banking, management consulting and technology.

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The Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree began during the industrial era in the United States when the growth in manufacturing increased the demand for middle managers who could direct the production lines. The first MBA program was provided by Harvard Business School, in 1908. It resulted in part from groundwork already underway by other leading schools, including the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School—the first U.S.–based business school, established in 1881—and Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Management—the first U.S.–based graduate school of management, established in 1900.
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The curricular focus for the first MBA program at HBS was based on FW Taylor’s scientific management, which applied the scientific method in order to increase efficiencies on the factory floor.

Subsequent to the establishment of Harvard’s MBA program, most other top programs were introduced in North America over the following 20 to 30 years, until a steady state of leading schools was established. The MBA degree gained significant popularity after the Second World War, as corporations grew in size and complexity and the need for management education and professional skills became more pronounced.

During the mid-20th century, the degree was less for career switchers and more for corporate America to use to send its high performers to learn and then return, as well as for undergraduate students to attend directly from their undergraduate studies. This was during the heyday of General Motors and similar organizations that supported the MBA degree. It is no coincidence that MIT’s Sloan School is named after Alfred Sloan, of General Motors. The relationship leading MBA programs had with corporate America at the time was similar to the relationships corporate America has now with executive and part-time MBA programs.

During the 1980s and 1990s the degree became more focused on students as “free agents.” MBA students would use the degree to advance their careers. Some would return to their prior industries, but some would use the degree to switch careers. The student was now the main customer, rather than the corporation; leading schools added significant resources to their career management efforts. During this time, the business landscape also experienced a rise in professional services, like management consulting and investment banking, industries that saw the MBA degree as an opportunity to seek out fresh talent. Schools responded to these changes by developing career management centers focused on MBA students, both to help these students seek their desired career path and to help businesses identify their new recruits.

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